Jan 31, 2007

Taiwan: History Books Reflect Change

In what could be interpreted as a politically motivated move, high school history books have been altered so as to refer to Taiwan and mainland China as two separate entities.

Below is an excerpt from an article published by Asia News:

Taiwan has revised its high-school history textbooks removing references to a common history with the People’s Republic of China. Hereafter, school books will stress that the two are separate nations. However, this decision has come in for criticism in mainland China but also on the island.

The new textbooks, which will be introduced after the winter holiday, will refer to the mainland as China and omit mentioning that Taiwan and the mainland are part of the same country.

Terms like "our country" or "this country"—which still carry the sense of Taiwan being part of the mainland—are simply changed to "China" to suggest that Taiwan is not a Chinese territory.

Sun Yat-sen, hitherto claimed by both Taipei and Beijing, will be viewed as merely the founder of a Chinese republic that has nothing to do with Taiwan. The actions taken to overthrow the Qing dynasty in Wuchang in 1911 are given a more neutral description as “chishi” (uprising) rather than “chiyi” (revolution).

Chinese history will no longer be seen as ‘national history’ but simply as the ‘history of China’ and taught for one semester in a separate chapter which will not include the history of Taiwan. The latter will be taught separately with its own chapter.

The new version of the textbook looks at the split between Taiwan and the mainland, saying "Taiwan's future remains a big question mark". Its author raises questions about the danger China represents for Taiwan and refers to the frustrations of the population of Taiwan, noting that although some people on the island advocate independence or cross-strait unification, most prefer the status quo to be maintained.

Opposition lawmakers and some academics cried foul over the alterations yesterday.

“This is yet another attempt by [Education Minister] Tu Cheng-sheng to cut our historic link with the mainland,” said Kuomintang lawmaker Diane Lee Ching-an. "It is obvious that he wants to brainwash our children in order to introduce pro-independence education to Taiwan."

History professors and parliamentarians like People First Party legislator Feng Ting-kuo also complained that an important part of history is lost this way.

Beijing condemned Taiwan's move as a ploy to indoctrinate the island's younger generation with a separatist ideology. It accuses Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian of trying to increase tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Li Weiyi, from the Chinese State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said “that there is only one China and that Taiwan and the mainland are parts of China cannot be amended.”